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‘Poe should not be blamed for being a foundling’

Edu Punay (The Philippine Star) - January 20, 2016 - 9:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Will it be fair to deny Sen. Grace Poe her right to become president of the country merely because she was abandoned by her biological parents?

Associate Justice Marvic Leonen raised this question on Tuesday during oral arguments in the Supreme Court (SC) on Poe’s petition questioning her disqualification from the presidential race by the Commission on Elections (Comelec).

During interpellation, Leonen said Poe should not be blamed for being a foundling.

“What did she do for her parents to leave her? She was a newborn and she did not have any moral volition at that point. It is the moral decision of the parents to leave her behind,” Leonen stressed.

The SC is deliberating on whether Poe meets the constitutional requirement for the president of the country to be “a natural-born citizen and a resident of the Philippines for at least 10 years immediately preceding such election.”

The Constitution describes “natural-born citizens” as those “who are citizens of the Philippines from birth without having to perform any act to acquire or perfect their Philippine citizenship.”

Leonen urged his colleagues to become “justices” more than “legalists.”

“It’s clear to us what should happen in terms of justness. Can our laws actually contain that kind of a result? Is it clear enough to say that the Constitution looks this way on foundlings? That there can never be a foundling found in a rural area of the Philippines that could ever become president?” he asked.

Leonen questioned the position of some SC justices that Poe should be compelled to look for her real parents or prove that she is a natural-born Filipino through DNA testing.

Ordinary Filipinos only need to show their birth certificate to prove their citizenship, he said.

Leonen argued that the government has recognized the right of Filipinos who worked abroad and returned to the Philippines to run for public office.

“This is not about a foreigner wanting to become a president of the country. This is about a balikbayan, a Filipino, perhaps who grew up here, who wants to come back to serve,” he said.

Leonen believes that Poe should be allowed to run for president and let the voters decide.

According to Leonen, Poe’s disqualification case should be resolved by the Presidential Electoral Tribunal if she wins the presidency.

The SC set the next hearing on Poe’s case on Jan. 26.

Meanwhile, Valenzuela City Rep. Sherwin Gatchalian said he expects the SC to be fair in rendering a ruling on Poe’s disqualification case.

“Unlike the Comelec, which only considered the political aspect of the case, I expect SC magistrates to think of its decision’s repercussion on thousands of abandoned children in the country,” he said.

Gatchalian is running for senator under Poe’s ticket. – With Paolo Romero

ACIRC ASSOCIATE JUSTICE MARVIC LEONEN GRACE POE LEONEN ORDINARY FILIPINOS POE PRESIDENTIAL ELECTORAL TRIBUNAL SHERWIN GATCHALIAN SUPREME COURT UNLIKE THE COMELEC VALENZUELA CITY REP
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